Newsflash: Ineos Grenadier gaat mogelijk in Smart fabriek gebouwd worden

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+++ High-level AUTONOMOUS DRIVING has a lot in common with mountain climbing: everybody knows the view atop will be magnificent, but very few know how to reach there. For example, Level 4 autonomous driving technology can free drivers’ hands and minds, but its large-scale application is widely estimated to require road tests of at least 100 billion kilometers and solving at least 1 million problems. However, Daimler-backed Chinese autonomous driving startup Momenta expects to build a totally driverless and profitable robotaxi fleet by 2024. The 4 year old company, which is also China’s first unicorn, a startup worth more than $1 billion, in the sector, said it will solve mileage and problem-solving issues by taking a 2-pronged approach. “Momenta don’t make cars or hardware. Rather, we make their brains or deep-learning capacities”, said CEO Cao Xudong, who previously worked at Microsoft and artificial intelligence giant SenseTime. Momenta sells software to tier 1 suppliers and carmakers, which brings in income and mountains of data that feeds back into its algorithms at relatively low cost. More importantly, it does not use a human-driven rule, which means an engineer comes to the rescue whenever a problem pops up, but an automatic data-driven method. “Sure, we can solve 100 problems with 100 people, but we can’t hire 1 million engineers to answer 1 million questions. So if you can build an automatic problem-solving system, automation will take care of a lot of the work for us”. Momenta started to receive orders for its semi-autonomous solutions from Chinese and international carmakers in 2019. Besides its software, its solutions mainly involve less expensive sensors, such as millimeter-wave radars and high-definition cameras instead of high-priced lidar sensors. Momenta did not give the names of its customers, but Cao said cars with its software are rolling out this year, and many more will follow starting from 2022. “Once the partners’ vehicles go out on the market, driving data begins pouring in, and Momenta will input that data into algorithmic training and periodically upgrade the autonomous cars for consumers”, Cao said. He said some of its vehicles will already be driverless by 2022 in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, where it received a test license last month, and its entire robotaxi fleet will operate without safety drivers in 2024. When it removes the drivers, whose salaries account for the majority of a taxi company’s costs, a positive operating margin per vehicle is ensured, Cao said. “It is meaningless if they are not profitable. We don’t do things that burn money, especially things that the bigger they get, the more money you lose”. If things go as planned, it will roll its light-asset model into other cities outside Suzhou. Momenta’s investors include German automaker Daimler and internet services giant Tencent Holdings. It had raised over $200 million by 2018 and is valued at over $1 billion. The company did not reveal whether it’s currently raising funds, but said it has a “stable cash flow” for at least 3 more years. +++ 

+++ BMW is building an innovation base in Shanghai with China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba to help foster technology startups in the country, in a bid to commercialize technological innovations in the premium mobility sector. The 2 companies will form a strategic alliance by harnessing their respective strengths and resources, exploring and implementing cooperation with Chinese tech startups focusing on internet and cars, the German premium carmaker said. It said 1 of their targets is to offer help to at least 300 enterprises in 3 years, in such cutting-edge technologies including cloud computing, digitization and future auto technologies. They will also offer the startups technical training and consulting services, provide office space for at least 30 companies and provide financial docking services for no less than 20 enterprises or teams. “The auto industry is undergoing a major transformation driven by technological development”, said Jochen Goller, president and CEO of BMW Group Region China. “In the midst of industrial upgrading and transformation, we need to keep an open mind and to collaborate with outstanding Chinese innovation powerhouses in order to scale new technologies for future mobility”. Ren Geng, vice-president of Alibaba, said: “The base’s establishment underscores the innovative forces driving future mobility. With the joint efforts of our partners, we are offering an open innovation incubation ecosystem to accelerate the growth of the startups”. Car innovations in China mainly revolve around digitalization, smart connectivity, artificial intelligence and autonomous driving. Many technology companies are eyeing internet plus vehicle technology and have made forays into the industry in areas such as services, providing algorithms, hardware, software and cloud based solutions. “BMW also aims to enable the shift from ‘Made in China’ to ‘Innovated in China’ “, Goller said. He added China is not only the company’s largest single market, but is also its most important manufacturing base and the innovation footprint in the country is huge. “BMW remains committed to open innovation and is ready to work with our partners here to tap into future growth potential”, Goller said. BMW is one of the most active international carmakers in cooperation with Chinese companies. Its partnership with Alibaba dates back to 2018, when BMW introduced Alibaba’s voice assistant Tmall Genie. Last year, BMW authored a white paper on autonomous driving safety with Chinese companies including Baidu. It also inked deals with China Unicom in terms of 5G services and NavInfo in high-precision maps. In the same year, it joined hands with Tencent to build a high-performance, data-driven development platform. It has also carried out in-depth discussions on technological cooperation with domestic AI unicorns (startups valued at over $1 billion) such as SenseTime and Horizon. BMW itself has established three research and development centers in China, making the country home to its largest research facilities outside of Germany. China is BMW’s largest market globally. Last year, it delivered a total of 723.680 BMW and Mini vehicles; up 13.1 % year-on-year, recording the best-ever sales result since entering the market in 1994. +++ 

+++ With many of the world’s automakers encountering a sluggish market amid the headwinds of the Covid-19 pandemic, Chongqing CHANGAN Automobile is an exception and has made notable breakthroughs in sales in the first 5 months. The automaker, a subsidiary of China North Industries Group (a leading arms producer) saw its 5-month export volume jump 11 % on a yearly basis to 21.500 units, including sedans and SUVs. Sales soared 54.3 % and 32.0 % year-on-year to 174.012 units and 159.557 units in May and April, respectively. This performance both at home and abroad was due to efforts to transform and upgrade product structure, operational modes and efficiency, as well as growing investment in the area of developing new energy vehicles and intelligent systems, industry experts said. Shi Haifeng, general manager of Changan’s overseas business unit, said the company’s full work resumption, new vehicle launches, government measures to stimulate auto consumption and a rebound in consumer confidence were contributing factors to its recent success. “Chinese auto brands have made great strides thanks to improved quality and after-sales services, and sometimes they even outperform certain global names”, Shi said, adding that many of the company’s exported vehicles were shipped from Chongqing to Shanghai via inland waterways. To minimize the impact from the Covid-19 pandemic, the State-owned company enhanced contact with domestic and foreign suppliers to coordinate delivery times of various components and ensure normal operations and timely deliveries. Eager to compete with other established rivals both at home and abroad, Shi said Changan has adopted more digital technologies and formed partnerships with companies in other sectors to upgrade its product range amid a wider industry shift toward developing smart connected vehicles. “The future development trend of the auto industry should be the deep integration and collaborative innovation between traditional automakers and internet companies”, he said. “All the steps are digitally synchronized to ensure execution and complete alignment with customer demand”. A number of global players from Germany, France, Japan and the United States have already digitalized their entire value chain, from product design and research and development, through to logistics, production and related services. Backed by 15 manufacturing bases and 35 auto and engine plants around the world, Changan now has 12.000 technicians from 24 countries, and has established R&D facilities in Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the US and Germany. Even though China’s January-May automobile output and sales totaled 7.79 million and 7.96 million units, respectively, a year-on-year drop of 24.1 % and 22.6 %, the country’s auto market stepped up recovery in May, with both production and sales showing double-digit growth, said the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Total automotive output stood at 2.194 million units in May; up 18.2 % on a yearly basis, and sales hit 2.187 million units; up 14.5 %. In terms of passenger cars, contraction came to an end both in terms of production and sales last month, with 11.2 % and 7 % growth registered, respectively, or 1.66 million and 1.67 million units. To maintain solid economic fundamentals, the government has emphasized the importance of focusing on the “6 priorities” of safeguarding employment, people’s livelihoods, the development of market entities, food and energy security, the stable operation of industrial and supply chains and the smooth functioning of society. Chen Bin, executive vice-president of the China Machinery Industry Federation in Beijing, said it is vital for China to boost exports in sectors such as passenger vehicles, electronics, furniture, clothing and foodstuffs as they involve large numbers of upstream and downstream industries with millions of industrial workers. A healthy growth of the automobile industry can benefit rubber material providers, refinery companies, glass, tire, steel, sensor, gearbox and battery manufacturers, as well as road project contractors, digital maps and insurance services, Chen added. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS ’ vehicle sales in China dropped 5.3 % between April and June from the corresponding period last year, underperforming the industry average amid a recovery from the coronavirus fallout on the world’s biggest auto market. China’s overall figure, which includes passenger and commercial vehicles, rose 4.4 % in April and 14.5 % in May, said the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), adding that it expected auto sales to grow 11 % in June. General Motors (GM), China’s second-biggest foreign automaker after Volkswagen, delivered 713.600 vehicles in the country in the second quarter, the company said in a statement, after reporting a drop of 43 % in sales in the first quarter, due to the pandemic. GM has a Shanghai-based joint venture in China with SAIC Motor which makes Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac vehicles. It has another venture, SGMW, with SAIC and Guangxi Automobile Group that produces no-frills minivans and has started making higher-end cars. Sales of GM’s mass-market brand Buick rose 7.8 % while Chevrolet dropped 27.7 % for the latest quarter. Sales of premium brand Cadillac fell 12 %. Sales of the no-frills brand Wuling grew 9.7 %, but those of Baojun tumbled 30.7 %. +++

+++ GERMANY saw new car registrations drop by 40 % in June, putting Europe’s largest market on track for reaching a 30-year low. The head of the International Carmakers’ Association was quoted as saying that 220.000 new cars were registered in June; in calendar-adjusted terms a 40 % fall over June 2019. The numbers, showing the impact of the coronavirus crisis and the economic hit caused by months of lockdown, are further bad news for a sector that has been buffeted by the transition away from combustion engines and scandals over emissions. For the full year, association head Reinhard Zirpel the number of new vehicles registered in 2020 was expected to fall 20 % over the previous year to 2.8 million. The last time so few cars were sold was 1989; the year of German reunification at the end of the Cold War. But even that was an optimistic prognosis, Zirpel said. “The cumulative minus up to the end of June is -35%”, he said. “There will have to be a very strong recovery in the second half to reach -20% at the end”. Demand for electric cars had risen, however, with a 90 % increase expected in the number of e-cars registered over the first half, for a total of 90.000. Almost half of those were pure electric vehicles, with hybrids constituting the majority. +++ 

+++ A Turkish jet executive on trial over Carlos GHOSN ’s dramatic escape from Japan told a court that the former Nissan boss spoke about Hollywood making a movie of his getaway as he flew in a private jet to Beirut. Ghosn, once a leading light of the global car industry, was arrested in Tokyo in late 2018 and charged with underreporting his salary and using company funds for personal purposes, charges he denies. The ousted chairman of the alliance comprising Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi had been awaiting trial under house arrest when he escaped in late December via Istanbul to Beirut, his childhood home. An executive from Turkish private jet operator MNG Jet and 4 pilots were detained in early January soon after Ghosn’s escape and charged with migrant smuggling; a charge carrying a maximum sentence of 8 years in jail. They appeared in white overalls, masks and gloves to protect against the coronavirus, as the court in Istanbul began hearing their defense. 2 flight attendants, charged with failing to report a crime (which could incur a sentence of up to 1 year) were also there. All 7 defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges. In their indictment, prosecutors had said MNG Jet operations manager Okan Kosemen (1 of the 7 on trial) knew before the flight left Osaka that Ghosn would be on board and would transfer to Beirut. Kosemen said in court he was only told via phone about Ghosn’s presence on the plane during its flight to Istanbul and that he cooperated under duress, believing his family could be in danger. Kosemen said a Lebanese broker who had arranged the flight had told him by phone, from Beirut, that the ex-Nissan boss was on board. He added that he had heard screams of joy in the background. “I swore at him (the broker). I was very angry” he told the court. Kosemen later met the arriving plane at an Istanbul airport and accompanied Ghosn on the Beirut-bound flight, he told the court. “Carlos asked me how much the plane cost and told me about Hollywood producers who want to make this escape a movie”, he said. A lawyer for Ghosn did not immediately respond to a request to comment. At the end of the session, the court ordered the release pending further proceedings of Kosemen and the 4 pilots, who had been in custody until now. “When you take into account the time they’ve served already we expected a release decision earlier. The court answered our calls for a release today. We think our client is innocent”, Kosemen’s lawyer Levent Yildiz said. The prosecution said Kosemen used WhatsApp to communicate with pilots before, during and after the Osaka-Istanbul flight, using terms like “luggage” and “consignment” to refer to Ghosn. Kosemen told the court “consignment” referred to sake that he himself had ordered from Japan. According to the indictment, Kosemen told prosecutors a price of $175,000 was agreed for the flight with the Lebanese broker and paid into MNG Jet’s bank account. In January, MNG Jet said he acted without the knowledge of the company and it had filed a criminal complaint for the illegal use of its aircraft. MNG declined to comment. The pilots have said they are only required to check headcount, not the identities of passengers, according to the indictment. Japan has formally asked the United States to extradite 2 Americans (a former Green Beret and his son) who also stand accused of helping Ghosn flee Japan. They were arrested in Massachusetts in May. The Ghosn saga has shaken the global auto industry, at one point jeopardizing the Renault-Nissan alliance that he masterminded, and increased international scrutiny of Japan’s judicial system. Renault and Nissan have struggled to recover profitability following his tenure, during which both automakers say Ghosn focused too much on expanding sales and market share. +++ 

+++ China’s leading automaker FAW Group said that it has seen a 111 % year-on-year growth in vehicle sales under its HONGQI brand in the first half of this year. Despite the impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak, more than 70.000 Hongqi cars were sold in the last 6 months as the company expanded its online and offline sales channels. In June alone, 15.400 cars of the brand were sold, representing a 92 % year-on-year growth. Hongqi met its 2019 sales target of 100.000 cars and has doubled it for 2020. Hongqi, meaning red flag, is China’s iconic sedan brand. Established in 1958, it has been used in parades at major national celebrations. +++ 

+++ HYUNDAI and its affiliate Kia said their sales in the United States fell 19 % in June from a year earlier as the new coronavirus continued to affect vehicle sales. Hyundai, Genesis and Kia sold a combined 99.434 vehicles in the US market last month; down from 122.890 units a year ago, according to the companies’ sales data. The carmakers had planned to focus on boosting sales in the world’s most important automobile market this year to offset sluggish demand in China, the world’s biggest automobile market. They originally planned to launch Hyundai’s Tucson, Genesis’ GV80 SUV and G80 sedan, and Kia’s Sportage in the US later this year, but they are still awaiting shipment to the US due to the Covid-19 pandemic. From January to June, the brands’ combined sales in the US declined 16 % to 543.474 units from 648.179 in the year-ago period, the data showed. Hyundai and Kia are widely expected to miss their combined sales target of 7.54 million cars for this year. They sold 7.2 million units in 2019. +++  

+++ Britain’s newest car manufacturer, INEOS AUTOMOTIVE , has confirmed that it is negotiating with Daimler to take over the Smart factory at Hambach, eastern France, as a manufacturing base for its new Grenadier range of 4×4 vehicles. The factory would be a replacement for both its proposed chassis manufacturing plant in Portugal and its final assembly plant in Bridgend, Wales. In a statement released this morning, Ineos says it is “reviewing its manufacturing strategy for the new Grenadier in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to some delays in our development plans, but has also presented some new opportunities in terms of existing manufacturing capacity that were not previously available to us. Specifically, Ineos Automotive has entered detailed discussions with Mercedes-Benz on the acquisition of its Hambach site in Moselle, France. We have therefore suspended the post-lockdown resumption of work at our sites in Wales and Portugal pending the outcome of this review. Further updates will follow in the coming weeks”. It is understood that the possibility of doing a deal only arose over the past few days and a major attraction is the fact that Daimler has equipped the Hambach plant fairly recently to build the Mercedes-Benz electric EQ A model, alongside the Smart 2-seat city cars that have always been its main output. This would suit the Grenadier manufacturing process, meaning the Hambach deal is the one most likely to be concluded. Ineos cites “significant overcapacity” in the automotive production sector, made clearer during the pandemic, as being the main factor for the decision. Ineos Automotive CEO, Dirk Heilmann, elaborated: “Of course we considered this route previously, but as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic some new options such as this one with the plant in Hambach have opened up that were simply not available to us previously. We are therefore having another look – and reviewing whether the addition of two new manufacturing facilities is the right thing to do in the current environment. Covid has had an impact on our build schedules. With ground clearing works and construction held up by the social distancing measures that have been required. Safety is of course paramount, but we also have an obligation to do what is right for the business, and so need to assess these new opportunities in order to maintain or improve on our timelines”. Last week, the first minister for Wales told that his team “remain in discussion with the company” over bringing the Grenadier manufacturing site to Bridgend, creating up to 500 jobs. However, there had been no formal announcement at that point, despite Ineos confirming last year its intention to base the 4×4’s finishing plant near the site of the soon-to-close Ford engine plant in Bridgend, going as far as rendering the finished building.+++ 

+++ MCLAREN is in discussions to sell a share of its Formula 1 team to fund its medium-term future. The Woking-based company has been hard hit by the coronavirus-caused shutdown, repeatedly making headlines as it sought to raise funding to stay afloat as the crisis dragged on. The situation was made more complicated by a clash between McLaren’s shareholders and some of its bondholders as to the long-term goals for its Automotive, Racing and Applied divisions. That situation was eased last week when McLaren secured a loan from the National Bank of Bahrain for €170 million at favourable interest rates, but its shareholders are now reported to have given the go-ahead to investigate other ways of raising funds to secure the firm’s medium-term future on a stable footing for the next 5 years. While plans are to potentially include selling part or all of Automotive and Applied Technologies, a McLaren insider insisted that the only advanced discussions were focused on selling a minority stake in the Racing division, as well as denying any conversations in regards to a sale of Automotive. Racing encompasses the McLaren Formula 1 team. McLaren’s bond holders and board are believed to have given the go-ahead to explore offers of interest in this last week. When approached, a McLaren spokesman said: “We are considering the option of additional investors in the Racing business”. The most recent insight into the McLaren Group’s value (comprising all 3 divisions of the firm) came 2 years ago, when Michael Latifi, father of Williams F1 racer Nicolas Latifi, bought a 10 % share for just over €225 million, suggesting a valuation of a little more than €2.25 billion at that time. However, with the upcoming F1 cost cap imminent, potentially making the team more profitable, it’s possible that valuation, plus the team’s upturn in form, could raise the price of a share in the race team. Parallel to this, a sale of Applied (a company that uses McLaren’s racing-derived expertise, particularly on data, technology and teamwork, and applies it to everyday industries, most notably in health and public transport) is also believed to be being discussed. However, that’s said to be complex, because of the firm’s reliance on its racing team links in order to thrive. Selling Automotive, either in part or in whole, was reported to have been discussed, but the McLaren insider denied this is the case. McLaren announced that it was cutting 1.200 jobs (around a quarter of its workforce) in May as part of a cost-cutting scheme, with the vast majority coming from the Automotive division, but the firm was highly profitable prior to the pandemic. No timeline for the potential sale of a stake in the F1 team has been given, but one source has suggested that talks are already well advanced, with more than one potential investor interested in the opportunity to buy into the team. +++ 

+++ MERCEDES-BENZ China, Beijing Benz Automotive and Fujian Benz Automotive have announced a recall of 668.954 vehicles from the Chinese market over oil leakage concerns. The recall, set to begin on December 18, involves vehicles of the C-class, E-class and V-class, among others, according to a statement on the website of the State Administration for Market Regulation. The recall order was issued as the linkage between the engine’s high-pressure fuel pump and its low-pressure fuel pipe could encounter reduced sealability after long-term use, possibly resulting in oil leakage. According to the statement, authorized dealerships will replace faulty parts of the affected vehicles free of charge to eliminate safety concerns. +++ 

+++ The MERCEDES BENZ DESIGNO customisation programme has been a big hit since the company made it official in 2015. This year alone, Mercedes saw demand for its made-to-order options increase by nearly 200 %. But while once limited to the G-Class exclusively, now buyers of Mercedes-Benz models like the E-Class, S-Class and AMG GT 2-door models can take advantage of the bespoke offerings part of Designo Manufaktur program. And today, that portfolio expands even further. Now, Benz buyers can dig through the Mercedes history books and select from either recently retired paint jobs or classic paint options from historic models dating as far back as the 1950s and 1960s, as well as colours available on other models. Those so bold can even request paint from other manufacturers (depending on availability). That’s right, you could theoretically drive off in an AMG GT R wearing Jeep’s Plum Crazy or an S 63 in Lexus’ sharp Nori Green Pearl. Mercedes-Benz previewed that expanded colour palette with 2 very pretty bespoke vehicles: the AMG S 63 Cabriolet and the E 63 S Estate. The droptop wears a Designo Manufaktur Deep Green from the Mercedes-Benz heritage portfolio, while the Estate wears a Designo Manufaktur Steel Blue, once reserved for the Sprinter van. And the endless customisation opportunities continue inside. Buyers can select from prior Mercedes-Benz Designo leather colours, custom headliners, and available contrast stitching and two-tone combinations. In the Maybach models specifically, the company says it can cover virtually every surface in the custom leather of your choosing. The iconic G-Class also gets some extra goodies as part of the Designo G Manufaktur customisation programme. The company now offers 34 exterior colours and 54 unique interior upholsteries for the G, which means more than a million possible combinations. As far as price, Mercedes-Benz doesn’t list anything official for its Designo Manufaktur options. But assume that if you want an S-Class in something other than the standard factory hue and leather, you will have to pay extra. +++ 

+++ NISSAN said its sales in China grew 4.5 % in June from a year earlier to 136.929 vehicles, as the world’s biggest auto market recovered from its coronavirus low. China’s auto market, the world’s biggest, is one of Nissan’s focuses as the embattled carmaker struggles to fix problems from ousted leader Carlos Ghosn’s aggressive expansion drive. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE is cautiously optimistic about its performance in China, expecting its 2020 sales to rebound to 2019 levels despite the coronavirus outbreak. Its China sales in February fell 60 % year-on-year due to the novel coronavirus, but the market started to recover in March and has now got back to normal. In 2019, the carmaker delivered 86.752 vehicles in China; up 8 % from 2018. The country has been Porsche’s largest market for 5 years in a row. It sold 280.800 vehicles worldwide in 2019; a 10 % rise year-on-year. Porsche’s plants in Germany resumed production in May, more than 6 weeks after the manufacturer halted production in late March. Jens Puttfarcken, president and CEO of Porsche China, said production staff are working overtime to make up for the delivery lag and keep to the original production plan. Puttfarcken made the remarks when Porsche launched the all-new Taycan sedan online last week. The latest Taycan is the 4th member of the model series, after the Taycan Turbo S, Taycan Turbo and Taycan 4S. Puttfarcken said Porsche began deliveries of the Taycan Turbo S and Taycan Turbo in China in late April, and 80 % of orders have been completed. The Taycan 4S is to be delivered soon. Half of the Taycan’s orders are from Porsche’s established customers with the remaining half new to the brand. Porsche’s pure electric sports cars meet the demands of different customers and help to expand their client groups, Puttfarcken said. He said the all-new Taycan is an entry-level model and is expected to become the most popular version in its family, with deliveries to Chinese dealers expected to start in December. Porsche will provide 2 variants of the all-new Taycan at 888,000 yuan ($125,740) for the basic version with a 79.2 kWh battery and 948,500 yuan with the larger battery pack of 93.4 kWh. The car accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 5.4 seconds. The carmaker is also making efforts to ensure quality charging and after-sales services. “Based on the lifestyles and travel habits of Porsche owners, the carmaker has set up a comprehensive and convenient charging network in China and provides charging options at home and in public places”, Puttfarcken said. Porsche plans to set up more than 400 public premium changing piles in more than 60 cities by the end of 2021, which can charge batteries from 5-80 % in 30 minutes. The carmaker will install charging piles at 50-150 high-end hotel groups by the end of 2020, which will be free to Taycan owners. Porsche also plans to cooperate with third-party operators to set up more than 200.000 charging piles in more than 200 cities nationwide to ease customers’ charging anxiety. The company expects half of its portfolio will be fully electric and plug-in hybrids by 2025. The new generation of the Macan will also be electrically powered and become Porsche’s second fully electric model series. +++ 

+++ SOUTH KOREA ‘s vehicle sales fell 22 % in the January-June period from a year earlier, as the new coronavirus outbreak continued to affect the automobile industry, industry data showed. The 5 carmakers in South Korea (Hyundai, Kia, GM Korea, Renault Samsung and SsangYong) sold a combined 3.033.798 vehicles in the first half; down from 3.866.229 units a year ago, according to data from the companies. Hyundai and Kia suspended operations of their major overseas plants until late May, and parent firms of the 3 other carmakers reduced production to control inventories amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Production at Hyundai and Kia’s overseas plants falls short of the levels before the coronavirus outbreak hit the industry early this year. Hyundai has 7 domestic and 10 overseas plants, whose combined annual capacity reaches 5.5 million vehicles. Kia has 8 domestic and 7 overseas plants whose capacity reaches 3.84 million units. In the first 6 months, Hyundai’s overall sales declined 25 % to 1.589.429 units from 2.126.307, while Kia’s dropped 14 % to 1.161.246 from 1.352.629 during the same period. The company said it will step up efforts to minimize the negative impact of the coronavirus on vehicle sales in global markets while focusing on securing stable sales networks despite the virus. Hyundai and Kia are widely expected to miss their combined sales target of 7.54 million cars for this year. They sold a total of 7.2 million units in 2019. The 3 others also performed poorly on weak exports. GM Korea’s sales plunged 28 % on-year to 166.038 units in the 6-month period from 231.172. SsangYong’s sales also dropped 28 % to 49.387 from 68.189, and Renault Samsung’s was down 21 % to 67.666 from 85.844 during the cited period. Their vehicle sales fell further in the first half due to a combination of lack of new models and the coronavirus impact. On top of that, SsangYong’s Indian parent Mahindra’s recent decision not to invest in the Korean unit dealt a bigger blow to the SUV-focused carmaker’s sales. To revive sales, Renault Samsung has yet to secure export volume for the XM3 compact SUV from its French parent Renault S.A. to replace the now suspended output volume of Nissan’s X-Trail at its sole plant in Busan, 450 kilometers south of Seoul. Renault Samsung used to produce about 100.000 X-Trails a year for exports under a manufacturing contract with Nissan. But the production stopped in March, as Nissan cut the output allocation to the plant, citing output losses caused by labor strikes. In the second half, the carmakers are expected to focus on boosting sales in the domestic market to offset weak overseas demand amid virus fears. Sales of imported vehicles in South Korea jumped 41 % in June from a year earlier on tax cuts and new models, an industry association said. The number of newly registered foreign vehicles rose to 27.350 units last month from 19.386 a year earlier, the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA) said in a statement. “A reduction in individual consumption taxes and new model launches particularly by Audi Volkswagen Korea helped buoy the monthly sales”, a spokeswoman said. The 3 bestselling models were the Audi A6 40 TDI and Mercedes-Benz’ E 300 4Matic plus E 250. From January to June, foreign carmakers sold a total of 128.236 auto’s; up 17 % from 109.314 in the same period of last year, KAIDA said. Imported brands accounted for 17 % of South Korea’s passenger vehicle market in the January-May period; up from 15 % a year ago. Their market share for June will be available in August. German brands sold a combined 83.647 vehicles in the first 6 months; up 44 % from 57.957 a year ago, it said. Japanese carmakers continued to struggle with low demand despite aggressive marketing as the 2 countries are still at odds over Japan’s export curbs against South Korea. Their combined sales plunged 57 % to 10.043 units in the first half from 23.482 a year ago during the same period. 5 Japanese brands are available in the Korean passenger vehicle market: Toyota plus its luxury brand Lexus, Honda and Nissan plus its premium brand Infiniti. In June, Nissan announced it will withdraw its operations from South Korea by December as it is hard to regain sustainable growth here due to worsening business environments amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The Japanese carmaker will pull the Nissan and premium Infiniti brands out of South Korea as part of its global business reorganization, the company said in a statement. Last July, Japan tightened regulations on exports to South Korea of 3 high-tech materials critical for the production of semiconductors and displays. In August, it removed South Korea from its list of countries given preferential treatment in trade procedures. South Korea views the moves as retaliation against 2018 Supreme Court rulings here ordering Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. +++ 

+++ TESLA ‘s jaw-dropping second-quarter deliveries send shares surging. Tesla outpaced analyst estimates for second-quarter vehicle deliveries, defying a trend of plummeting sales in the wider auto industry as coronavirus-linked lockdown orders kept shoppers at home and sending its shares up 8 %. The unexpected delivery numbers come a day after Tesla became the highest-valued automaker, surpassing the market capitalization of former front-runner Toyota. The rally further widens Tesla’s lead over legacy automakers as investors grow confident in its ability to define the industry’s electric and software-driven future. Shares surged by about $85 in early trading to $1,204. Analysts said the solid delivery numbers heightened expectations for a profitable second quarter, which would mark the first time in Tesla’s history that it would report four consecutive quarters of profit. “A 90k delivery number in this Covid lockdown environment is a jaw dropper”, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said in a note. Tesla delivered 90.650 vehicles during the quarter; significantly above estimates for 74.130 vehicles. It delivered 80.050 units of its new Model Y crossover and Model 3 for the quarter. The company did not break out deliveries by model or country, but Chinese vehicle registrations showed accelerating consumer demand for the Model 3. Nearly 16.200 Teslas were registered in China in April and May combined, with June figures still outstanding. The company is also ramping up output at its Shanghai vehicle factory, where it aims to produce 150.000 vehicles by the end of this year. The Shanghai plant was only briefly impacted by coronavirus shutdowns in late January and early February. Tesla’s only U.S. vehicle factory (in California, where the bulk of its vehicles is currently produced) was shut down for some 6 weeks during the quarter, heeding local orders to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. While vehicle deliveries increased 2.5 % on a quarterly basis, production dropped nearly 20 %. “While our main factory in Fremont was shut down for much of the quarter, we have successfully ramped production back to prior levels”, the automaker said in a statement. Tesla in January said 2020 vehicle deliveries should comfortably exceed 500.000 units, a forecast the company has left unchanged despite the pandemic. Tesla is now seeking a location for a second U.S. vehicle factory to build its Model Y and a new electric pickup, zeroing in on Oklahoma and Texas. Other major automakers posted lower U.S. monthly or quarterly new vehicle sales due in large part to weak fleet orders, but said consumer demand remained robust despite the continuing coronavirus pandemic. +++ 

+++ Just 3 automakers made it to the top 100 brands in market researcher Kantar’s latest 2020 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Brands study. TOYOTA , ranked 48th overall, still remains the world’s most valuable car brand despite losing approximately 3 % of its value compared to 2019. Mercedes-Benz is the second most valuable brand in the automotive industry according to the study, placing 56th overall, followed by BMW at 61st position, losing 9 % and 12 % respectively. Ford and Honda dropped off the top 100 list after losing 10 % and 15 % of their values compared to 2019. “Since 2008, the car sector has declined in value and has never recovered”, Global BrandZ Strategy Director, Graham Staplehurst, told. “It’s very different from other sectors. For example, the luxury sector took a hit but then came back”. From all 10 automotive brands included in the study, Tesla is the only one with a valuation increase of 22 % to about £9 billion. However, this wasn’t enough for the California-based EV automaker to enter Top 100 territory. Kantar’s specialists believe that companies with a clear focus on electric technologies have the highest chance of a faster recovery. “Brands that are continuing to invest in more EVs will continue to grow in the future”, the research company’s global automotive practice lead, Guillaume Saint, commented. “Companies that are dropping value the most are the ones that are most shy about expressing their vision for the future in terms of mobility”. In the automotive brand’s Top 10 list, Nissan registered the highest drop in value by 18 % to £6.94 billion, followed by Honda, Audi and BMW with 15 %, 14 % and 12 % decreases. Outside the automotive sector, the highest valued brand for 2020 is Amazon, which retains its position from 2019 after increasing its value by 32 % to £333 billion. Apple came second, followed by Microsoft, which took the third spot from Google. +++ 

+++ In the UNITED KINGDOM , figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that new car registrations were down 34.9 % year-on-year in June as 1 in 5 dealerships remained shut due to the coronavirus pandemic. The industry body notes that although the 145.377 registrations recorded in June were substantially less than in the same period last year, they were a marked improvement on May, when the year-on-year decline was 89.0 %. Car dealerships in England were allowed to reopen on 1 June, enabling the retail sector to gradually restart operations, but roughly one fifth have remained closed, according to the National Franchised Dealers Association. Dealerships in Wales and Scotland weren’t allowed to open until the end of the month. The latest decline means the market is 616.000 cars (48.5 %) down compared with the first 6 months of 2019. The SMMT said that roughly 240.000 private sales have been lost since the government’s stay-at-home directive was implemented in late March, “resulting in an estimated £1.1 billion loss to the Treasury in VAT receipts alone”. Private sales were down 19.2 %, with orders made before lockdown accounting for 72.827 registrations; roughly half of the total for June. Fleet sales were worse affected, falling by 45.2 % to 69.398 units. Demand for combustion-engined cars was hit hardest, with petrol car registrations dropping 39.9 % and diesel 59.8 % year-on-year. The opposite is true, however, of alternatively fuelled vehicles; compared to June 2019, demand for plug-in hybrids grew 117.0 %, while some 261.8 % more pure-electric vehicles found homes. Of the 145.377 cars registered last month, 8.903 were fully electric. The Tesla Model 3 features in the top-10 bestsellers list for the third month running, having been the bestselling car overall in April when 658 customers took delivery of cars ordered before lockdown started. In June, 2.517 Model 3 cars were registered, making it the 9th bestselling car, above the Volkswagen Tiguan, Europe’s most popular SUV, at number 10. The SMMT said there remains a degree of uncertainty as to the level of demand for new cars in the UK, as not all dealerships are open. However, it predicts that “automotive is likely to lag behind other retail sectors”, because consumers are less likely to make large expenditures as the UK emerges from lockdown. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “While it’s welcome to see demand rise above the rock-bottom levels we saw during lockdown, this is not a recovery and barely a restart. Many of June’s registrations could be attributed to customers finally being able to collect their pre-pandemic orders, and appetite for significant spending remains questionable. The government must boost the economy, help customers feel safer in their jobs and in their spending and give businesses the confidence to invest in their fleets. Otherwise it runs the risk of losing billions more in revenue from this critical sector at a time when the public purse needs it more than ever”. Last month, the SMMT warned that 1 in 6 automotive jobs were under threat following a wave of job losses at various large firms including Aston Martin, Bentley and McLaren. The body is calling on the government to provide an industry support package to drive demand and ease cashflow, with suggested measures including emergency funding, business rate holidays, VAT cuts and policies that boost consumer confidence. Earlier reports that the government was planning to introduce a nationwide scrappage scheme (boosting demand for new electric and hybrid cars by offering consumers up to £6.000 for older models) have been described as “unlikely” by a government source. The SMMT has also revealed the top 10 for June and the Vauxhall Corsa has taken top spot. The ever-popular hatchback managed 4.528 sales to nail first place in June and it remains 4th place for the year so far. Coming in at second for June is the Ford Fiesta. The Fiesta’s total of 4.386 for June is a huge leap on the 790 it managed in May and signals a return to form for the wider new car market as car dealers once again opening up dealerships. Toyota revealed a new Yaris earlier this year and June has proved to be an excellent month in sales for the Japanese supermini. 4.200 sales for the month meant the Yaris jumped into the top 10, sitting in a healthy 8th place. +++

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